Physio Therapy and Back Pain

Physiotherapy and Back Pain

Do you suffer from back pain? Well, you are not alone. Most people will experience back pain throughout their lives, especially as they age. In fact, back pain is one of the leading causes of physical disability, with almost 80% of the population experiencing it at some point in their lifetime. Whether it be from sitting at a desk all day, standing for hours at a time, or sleeping in an awkward position, there are many causes for back pain. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about. However, when the pain is ongoing or affecting your quality of life, it is time to seek help.

When people think about treatment for back pain, they often think they need to see a chiropractor. But the fact is, many back pain problems can also be treated by a physiotherapist and, in many cases, might be the better choice. Physiotherapists focus on improving their patient’s ability to move and function without pain. They evaluate, guide and educate them on how to stay active and healthy. Physical therapists use a variety of methods to help manage pain and promote natural rehabilitation through techniques such as heat and ice therapy, ultrasound, exercises and massage to lessen dysfunction and restore their patient’s quality of life. 

Why should you see a physiotherapist for back pain?

Physiotherapy offers a personalized treatment approach to help their patients recover from an injury or illness. They create customized treatment plans that are unique to each patient and guide them through rehabilitation. Physical therapists focus on strengthening muscles and joints to help prevent reoccurring injuries and future ones. 

While the occasional pain in your back shouldn’t be a cause for concern, there are warning signs that can indicate it is time for you to see a physiotherapist. Below you will find a list of some of the most common indications of when to see a physiotherapist for back pain.

Referred pain

If you are experiencing any type of numbness, tingling, pins and needles or weakness in a different location than where your pain is, you should see a physiotherapist as soon as possible. For example, lower back pain combined with a tingling or numbness in your toes. When you experience referred pain, it’s an indication that something is affecting your nervous system. It could be a pinched nerve or something more serious and should be treated right away to prevent any muscle weakness or movement problems. 

Ongoing pain

If you have been experiencing back pain that has lasted longer than a week, you should visit a physiotherapist, especially if you do not know the cause of the pain. Sometimes the cause is more obvious (e.g., poor posture, sports injury), but other times, it can be more difficult to diagnose. Back pain is a common side effect of a multitude of ailments, and thus any ongoing back pain should be diagnosed properly to ensure it’s nothing more serious. Remember, any type of pain is not normal, and the sooner you seek treatment, the better chance you have of treating it quickly and easily.

How quickly does physiotherapy work?

Most people want a quick fix when it comes to dealing with back pain, but in truth, how long it will take to heal depends on the severity of your pain. Sometimes, with manual therapy and exercise, patients can begin to see the results of physiotherapy as quickly as one session to three sessions. However, for more severe issues, it can take weeks or months before a patient sees any noticeable results. Call us today to book a consultation to learn how long it might take for you. 

How long is physical therapy for back pain?

How long a patient will remain in physical therapy is dependent upon a few factors, including the severity of the pain, how long the patient has been experiencing pain, and the patient’s commitment to their treatment plan. Sometimes back pain can be fixed in just one to three treatments, especially if it is a simple functional injury related to misaligned joints. However, some patients with chronic back pain may require long-term maintenance or further rehabilitation therapy. Your physical therapist will be able to determine this and prescribe additional or ongoing physiotherapy based on the cause of your pain. 

How do physiotherapists treat back pain?

Physiotherapists work directly with their patients to create a unique treatment plan to help treat the patient’s back pain. Unlike the old belief of resting until you feel better, one of the best things you can do is start moving with the help of a physical therapist. In fact, resting too much can make matters worse. For a standard back pain treatment plan, there are four main elements that physiotherapists focus on: posture, movement, strengthening and manual therapy. 

Physical therapists begin by focusing on correcting your posture by addressing how you stand, sit and walk. Correcting posture helps to relieve pressure placed on the lower back and hips during regular everyday activities, such as walking, sitting at a desk or standing for several hours at work. 

Based on your condition, your physiotherapist will also include customized movement activities and exercises in your treatment plan. These are designed to help get you back to doing your regular daily movements carefully. Some of these exercises will also include muscle-strengthening exercises for your back and hips to help get your strength and coordination back. They can help to prevent any reoccurrence or further injury. 

Lastly, your physical therapist may also include manual therapy to deliver a hands-on approach by kneading and manipulating the muscles to help relieve any stiffness or tight joints. Manual therapy can help reduce extra strain on your back that can cause lower back pain. 

Some examples of other hands-on therapies and techniques include the following:

  • Massage therapy
  • Myofascial release
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • Electrical nerve stimulation
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Ice and heat therapy


In addition to in-person appointments with your physiotherapist, patients will be required to continue some of the exercises at home for several months or more. These exercises will help to prevent any reoccurrence of lower back pain. Also known as maintenance therapy, these home exercises are essential to maintaining a correct and balanced posture and relieving pain in your back and hips. 

Which type of physiotherapy is best for back pain?

One of the best ways to help prevent back pain is with exercise. Proper exercise can help reduce pain and stiffness by maintaining flexibility and mobility and strengthing your back muscles. 

Here are eight physiotherapy exercises you can do at home to help prevent back pain.

1. Lower back rotation

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Have your feet flat on the floor. Take deep breaths and make sure you feel relaxed. Then drop your knees to one side and turn your head to the other side, keeping your shoulders flat against the floor. Only rotate as far as you can comfortably – if it hurts, do not push. Hold for 20 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat five times.

2. Back extension

Start by lying face down on the floor. Slowly lift up your torso with your elbows inline with your shoulders and with your hands palm-side down on the floor, like a sphinx. Push into the ground, slowly straightening your elbows and arching your back. If you feel any pain, stop. This should be a gentle stretch. Once you have reached as far as you can go without pain, slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

3. Piriformis bridge stretch

Begin by laying on your back with both of your knees bent. Then, tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips off of the floor. Squeeze your buttocks when you have raised your hips as high as they will go, then slowly lower your hips back to the floor. Repeat 10 times.

4. Knee rotation

This one is fairly simple. Stand up straight, feet together, and knees bent. Put your hands on your knees and slowly rotate them, making small clockwise circles. Repeat 10 times, then make a counterclockwise circle. Repeat another 10.  

5. Cat-camel stretch

Begin this stretch on your hands and knees and tighten your abdominal muscles. Slowly round out your back, pushing it toward the ceiling while dropping your head down. Hold this position for 15 seconds. After, curve your back towards the ground with your forearms stretched out flat on the floor, like a stretching cat. Hold for another 15 seconds and repeat. 

6. Cat-cow stretch

Start on your hands and knees again. This time slowly round out your back, pushing it toward the ceiling while dropping your head. Then slowly return your back to its neutral position while on your hands and knees—don’t drop it toward the ground. Repeat 20 times. 

7. Side twists

Begin by laying on your back with your arms extended out to the side. Then, bend your knees and rotate them to one side while turning your body in the opposite direction. Hold for 10 seconds. Then repeat on the opposite side and hold for 10 seconds. 

8. Toe touching

Most people know this stretch as it is a great way to stretch out your back. Simply stand up straight with your arms stretched over your head and lean back just a little until you feel a push in your lower back. Then, slowly bend forward, keeping your knees straight and reach for your toes. Repeat 10 times. 

Which types of back pain can physiotherapy treat?

There are several types of back pain that can benefit from physical therapy treatment. In fact, most forms of back pain can benefit from some form of physiotherapy. Below you can find a list of common conditions that cause back pain and how physiotherapy can help.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD)

Particularly as you get older, degenerative disc disease is a common cause of back pain. This is often because either the disks between your vertebrae begin to dry out or they become damaged due to regular wear and tear or injury. Some signs of DDD include feeling like your back has seized up, stiffness, pain that worsens while sitting, and pain in your buttocks. 

Your physiotherapist will put together a treatment plan that will likely include stretching and flexibility exercises, strengthening exercises and aerobic exercises to help improve movement in your joints and muscles and relieve pain. 

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation to infiltrate a person’s joints and beyond. This leads to decreased joint mobility and pain, including back pain. 

To help reduce back pain from rheumatoid arthritis, your physiotherapist may use treatment methods such as targeted exercises, manual therapy, hot and cold therapy and more. 


Sciatica is the name for pain radiating along the sciatic nerve in your lower back. While not a condition on its own, it is a general term used to describe lower back pain caused by a compressed, irritated, or inflamed lumbar spine that pinches the sciatic nerve roots. It can also cause tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the lower back, buttocks and legs. 

A physiotherapist’s treatment plan for sciatica would likely involve exercises that include stretching, flexibility, joint manipulation and mobilization, and functional retraining to improve movement in your joints and relieve pain.  

Post-surgical pain

Physical therapy and exercise can help to rebuild strength, flexibility and endurance after spine surgery in order to avoid re-injuring your spine and to return to your regular daily activities. Following a guided exercise treatment plan put together by a physiotherapist is crucial to a patient’s safe recovery and helping their body heal. 

Following spine surgery, a physical therapist’s treatment plan would likely involve strengthing and aerobic exercises to help regain strength in the abdomen, legs and back. 

If you are suffering from back pain, don’t wait. Give us a call today to see how our physiotherapists at True Life Wellness and Physiotherapy can help you feel better by booking a consultation

Contact True Life Physiotherapy & Wellness today to make an appointment with one of our courteous front-of-house staff members.

Give us a call today to see how our chiropractor and physiotherapists can help your feet feel better by booking a consultation.

Call and schedule your initial consultation with the friendly staff members at True Life Physiotherapy & Wellness, today.

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